Australia set to pass contentious tax cuts bill as parliament resumes

REUTERS

SYDNEY — Australia looks set to pass a reshaped tax cuts bill, that would give low-income earners more breaks and trim benefits to the wealthy, as the opposition pledged support on Tuesday after initially criticizing the government’s shift in policy.

The conservative opposition’s decision came as the parliament resumed after a two-month recess.

The center-left Labor government has been promoting the new tax policy, unveiled last month, saying it would benefit more Australians. But the opposition criticized Prime Minister Anthony Albanese for breaking an election pledge that he would not modify the tax policy, legislated by the previous conservative coalition government in 2019.

Mr. Albanese has defended the changes citing broad financial pressure on families from high inflation.

“It’s the right decision done for the right reasons at the right time. And that’s what we’ll be advocating in the parliament,” the prime minister told reporters in Canberra on Tuesday.

Under the new policy, more people will fall into lower tax brackets from July 1 and tax cuts for the wealthy would likely halve, with the savings redirected to those on low incomes.

Opposition leader Peter Dutton blamed Labor for the country’s high inflation but said he would not stand in the way of providing support to “Australians who are doing it tough”.

“The prime minister has made this change for his own political survival. We are supporting this change not to support the prime minister’s lie but to support those families who need help now,” Mr. Dutton said during a press briefing.

Mr. Albanese is trying to lift his approval ratings with his promise of higher tax breaks for the majority of Australians as his Labor party battles to retain the federal seat of Dunkley in a by-election set for March 2.

A Newspoll survey for The Australian newspaper out on Monday showed 62% of voters supported the government’s decision though Mr. Albanese’s ratings remained largely unchanged. On a two-party preferred basis, Labor led the opposition 52-48%. — Reuters